Tricks of the trade for instructional design

by Viv Cole on August 30, 2012

One of the best things about working in instructional design is that you get to work with a variety of organisations and ask some of their smartest people about the tricks of their trade e.g. What does best practice look like? What are the common pitfalls? What are the early warning signs that something may not fit the standard process? Much of this involves delving into the heuristics (or rules of thumb) that skilled people use to make effective decisions. Take a moment to reflect: how many of your everyday decisions are driven by heuristics?

We all use heuristics (some of which are more grounded in fact than others) to make inferences about unfamiliar things using familiar indicators e.g. don’t trust salespeople who wear white socks, a good quality builder leaves the site clean, if you’re lost in a residential area in the UK satellite dishes point South. As you might expect, there is a website that compiles these

Notable by its absence is instructional design, e-learning, or pretty much anything to do with corporate e-learning. Interestingly a few e-learning companies include a spelling/ grammar test in the recruitment processes for instructional designers, so there’s some consensus that you can tell how good an ID is from their ability to spell.

Here’s a photo from a hotel I stayed in a few months back.

Hotel typo

Did you spot the typo? If you did, you could have the attributes to be a great instructional designer…or maybe you add your own insights to


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